District 8 City Councilman Ron Nirenberg's office is celebrating the efforts of a community outreach program.
Leaders with the effort say the councilman's Community Academy meets constituents where they are to get involved in local government.
The program involves various initiatives, including monthly constituent meetings called D8 Dialogues, town hall forums with children at local elementary schools, and planning sessions. Nirenberg said he's been aiming to go out to the residents in his north side district instead of them mostly coming to him. It's a proactive approach, he noted, to getting things done and finding out about problems.
The program got the attention of Congressman Pete Gallego, who recognized Nirenberg at a ceremony inside City Hall.
"Through a citizens outreach, through this academy, you can actually rebuild the faith and confidence of the people that you serve," Gallego said. "And not only that, but you draw them in as the councilman said, back into the process."
Noah Howe, co-director of the Community Academy, said everyone has a responsibility to get involved. But, he said, there's a problem.
"In general, people feel like their voices aren't being heard," said Howe. "We have work to solve that problem by expanding the mission of our office past policy pronouncements and constituent services. Councilman Nirenberg has used the District 8 office to call a community to action."
Nirenberg said he learned about this style of leadership while at the Annenberg Public Policy Center, where he studied civic engagement. Nirenberg found out that people became apathetic toward the government process in their own communities.
"What we found is the best way to attack that is not to go in, as Noah said, and give policy pronouncements and explain yourself, it's to ask people what are the issues that they care about," said Nirenberg.
Howe and others believe their recognition comes from dedicated staffers who run the academy and their daily attention to reaching out.